2023 Conference on International Cyber Security | 7-8 November 2023
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Panel 8


Cyber Dimensions of the War in Ukraine

Lior Tabansky

Lior Tabansky offers a uniquecybersecurity grasp, combining business experience in formulating cybersecuritystrategies for nations and enterprises in Asia, Europe and Africa, a Ph.D. inPolitical Science, and 15 years of IT-pro work. 

Dr. Tabansky serves as the Head ofResearch for Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center and the academicdirector of the “Effective Cybersecurity” Executive Education program, both inTel Aviv University. Dr. Tabansky’s Lab develops a sectoral approach to CriticalInfrastructure Protection, with the World Bank already using his originalmethodology in large-scale infrastructure projects.

His prior work spans comparativedefense transformation, cybersecurity policy, and hostile Influence operationsvia Social Media. “Cybersecurity in Israel,” Mr. Tabansky's 2015 bookco-authored with Professor Major-General (Ret.) Isaac Ben-Israel, is the firstcomprehensive "insider" account of Israeli policy and operations. Hisdoctoral dissertation under the supervision of Professors Azar Gat and IsaacBen-Israel uncovered and analyzed the failed peacetime defense adaptation thatleft even the most developed nations exposed to destructive cyberattacks onstrategic homeland targets by foreign states.






Is Europe learning the wrong lesson from the Russia-Ukraine cyber theatre?

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been met with a Western consensus that Western cyber ‎defense thus proved effective even against Russia, a Tier-II cyber power. The standard narrative across developed nations is that American tech companies, Western governments, ‎and international organizations have stepped up the ‎cyber defense of Ukraine. American, British, Dutch, and other experts had proactively built capabilities for critical infrastructure protection and cyber defense in Ukraine. Together with Ukranians, the West thwarted the onslaught of Russian cyber-attacks. The dearth ‎of Russian cyber-effect operations against Ukrainian targets is a fact. However, the lesson ‎that the collective West appears to have learned is a dangerous delusion. ‎

This paper ‎challenges the “Western cyber defense works‎” lesson. Re-introducing the logic of strategy to the analysis of cybered conflict, ‎the paper argues that Russia opted for a traditional “kinetic” military. That the Russian military operation has failed makes no difference. The point is that Russia has correctly weighed ‎the pros and cons of using cyber instruments of power to topple the regime in Ukraine and annex territory. Cyber-warfare’s three most important value propositions are: breaking free of ‎geography, lingering below the threshold of armed conflict, and reversing effects. Russia apparently understands these competitive advantages.

Moreover, having accumulated profound operational experience in cyber-effect operations over the years, Russia understands that whether a cyber-attack will cause the intended effect at a ‎specific time is far from assured. Furthermore, cyber power cannot conquer and ‎hold territory. For these purposes, “real” weapons are ‎more dependable and effective.